Velvet Hammer! 1977 Mercedes Benz 450 SEL 6.9

Wasting away in a Texas garage and last registered in 1991, this big Mercedes-Benz needs more than a little gas thrown down its throat and a new battery to reclaim its ownership of the road. As you might expect from the trunk script, this 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 packs a big 6.9 liter (417 cid) V8, and was the car of choice for many people with the name “President” in their title in 1977. This one comes to market here on craigslist where $5300 makes it yours. Considering the number of things on this car that could cost $5300 or more to repair, only time will tell if that’s a bargain or not. Thanks to wikipedia for some details.

Carrying the torch of the “S Class,” the SEL was Mercedes-Benz’ flagship model, and the 6.9L M100 V8 boasted all the technology and reliability you might expect when transporting heads of state. Amidst the global fuel crisis, Mercedes-Benz dropped the velvet hammer on the competition, and the 6.9 stood as the largest engine of any car built outside America since World War II, making 286 HP and 405 lb-ft of torque. For perspective, Cadillac’s newly-downsized Fleetwood ran a 7.0L V8 making 180 HP. Each M100 6.9 endured 265 minutes of testing including 40 minutes at full load. I’m not sure what would happen if you ran an American sedan from the ’70s at full load for 40 minutes, but I think more than a few paper towels would be required at minute 41. Bosch fuel injection, forged rods and pistons, a 12 quart dry-sump oiling system, and a host of other advances gave owners accustomed to being called “Your Majesty,” or “Sire” the confidence they needed to get from Point A to Point B without drama.

If you want to see some drama involving a 450 SEL 6.9, however, look no further than 1998’s Ronin where a tire-smoking 6.9 employs its hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension as a stable platform at speed for Robert DeNiro’s RPG launcher. The Euro-spec headlights make a nice touch compared to the round units on the US-Spec model. Mercedes-Benz famously gave a 6.9 to Brock Yates, automotive journalist and co-creator of the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, asking for a review of the big Merc. Yates embarked on a road-trip that included laps at Road Atlanta, and you can read the entertaining write-up here on threepedals.

If this *is* a European-spec 6.9 it would have some differences from the North-American models, including additional power and torque according to petrolicious. We rarely see “MBZ” in America unless referring to Mohammed bin Zayed, who may have ridden in a 6.9 as a youth, and is currently one of the most powerful men in the world.

If you’ve dreamed of becoming a dictator but lack the intelligence, ruthlessness, and geo-political torque to get there, this may be your chance to sip the heady waters of world domination. I know enough about ’70s fuel-injection to guarantee lots of “fun” (as they say in Europe when referring to things that are not fun) in reviving this beast, and indeed the seller indicates that engine work will be required. Say that’s no big deal to you, and maybe you’re pretty sharp with hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspensions. This could be the deal of the century for such a person, and I say that to both of you. Truth be told, though, I’d rather try to keep this ’77 ‘Benz on the road than one of today’s comparable cars. Some BMWs can’t idle 40 minutes in traffic without generating an error code, and it’s getting harder and harder to find a high-rolling sedan with a naturally-aspirated V8. Fast-forward to a day when this 450 SEL 6.9 is completely restored and sitting in your driveway. What epic road trip would you plan for it?


  1. JudoJohn

    What a shame! These were great cars. Lots of potential, lots of potential $$$ to restore. I hope it goes to someone who can and will make it right.

    Like 5
  2. Rob

    This is a Euro spec car, originally with wool interior. The “velvet hammer” was actually a moniker given to another Q car: the 500e. If you want a little bit of excitement, watch “ C’ÉTAIT UN RENDEZ VOUS” which is a high speed run through Paris in a 450SEL 6.9, with a well emulated Ferrari soundtrack. Also, “Ronin” put one through It’s paces.

    Like 6
  3. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    I don’t much about Mercedes-Benz cars, but I know something about car ramps. Well, then again it is a C/L add.

    Like 3
  4. Chas H

    Looks like a Euro model from the headlights, bumpers, and climate controls.
    A friend had a Euro model and they are quite fast.
    This car is almost beyond help as prices aren’t that high to support such a complete restoration.

  5. K

    interesting use of ramps

    Like 2
  6. alphasud Member

    I would want to look at it in person. Prices have been rising on the S class series. Hagerty shows a 24K for a #3 and 47K for a #2. I would be looking closely at the M100 because they are pretty pricey to rebuild. The interior looks pretty good and I didn’t see any rust I would be tempted to buy this one.

  7. Larry Brantingham

    The car itself is interesting enough and then I noticed that it is about a block from my son’s house. We’ve been cutting back (I think we’re below 50 now), so it’s probably time for a refill. I can actually see some parts of the floor of the shop.

  8. Robert May

    Thanks for the link to the Brock Yates piece. My high schools library subscribed to Car and Driver and I spent a lot of time reading that magazine. Brock Yates was always a good read.

    Like 1
  9. Rex Kahrs Member

    Oh, it doesn’t take intelligence to be a dictator, we all know that. Ruthlessness certainly helps, though.

    It is curious as to why such a technologically advanced car only managed to be on the road for about 15 years before being mothballed. There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes!

    Like 2
  10. CCFisher

    A sad fate for such a magnificent car.

    Like 1
  11. Jon Ard

    These were great cars … shut the door and it sounds like you are shut in a vault … handles great on the road … but, like the 600, EVERYTHING in the car costs a bunch to fix … the hydraulics can run $5000-7000 easily, and that was twenty years ago when we had one traded in on a Porsche … it will take very deep pockets to bring a car like this back into shape … not for the faint of heart but would be more like a labor of love for the car …

  12. brent lister

    I owned one of these (US Model) and it was my favorite car that I’ve ever owned (and I’ve had many at my age). When I blew the engine, my mechanic told me to scrap the car. I couldn’t. I bought another one and transplanted the engine. Big mistake. After many, many $’s trying to maintain it, I finally threw in the towel. Loved that car. If someone can afford it, it should be a fun one (although the Euro model creates some additional things to deal with).

  13. Chip

    There was a (not cheap) Mercedes factory suspension conversion offered so customers could keep these on the road. So no need to spend 20K to fix the suspension if the seals have failed. That should be the most expensive part of getting this back on the road. Find the kit first though.

  14. A.J.

    Just trying to imagine how many bushel baskets of hundreds it would take to restore this.

  15. Maestro1 Member

    Well, of course it’s a deep pockets adventure. If you want the cat to keep for a long while, send it to Mercedes Classiche in Whittier California and let them bring it back to life in concert with a very large number. You won’t be disappointed. Just don’t go into this with a low dollar renewal in mind,

  16. R.Scot

    I had a friend who had one of these in about the same condition and did a somewhat full-resto on it some years back. He kept it as an on-going project, and took his time at it. From my experience on what very little I did to help him out on some work, you really need to know what you’re doing, do lots of research, have lots of cash on-hand, and take your time on the project. It was worth it. I have never seen a car that can literally burn the entire set of rear tires off in reverse!!

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